image Photo: Flash90

Israel ups Palestinian work quota

Thousands more Arab residents of the Palestinian Authority and Gaza Strip will be permitted to enter Israel for employment opportunities.

By Erin Viner

The Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced that following evaluation of the security situation, it was decided to increase the number of entry permits granted to Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip for purposes of work and commerce by an additional 2,000 permits.

The determination concludes a temporary suspension on 18 June of the same earlier decision implemented after rocket fire from Gaza directed at the State of Israel, according to a statement TV7 obtained from the COGAT Spokesperson’s Office.

The incoming projectile on the Saturday-before-last was successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, and there were no reported injuries or material damage. Israel Air Force jets retaliated for the attack with strikes on a weapons manufacturing site and military posts operated by the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza.

COGAT stressed that the Palestinian quota increase, which came into effect today, will continue “provided that the security situation in the area remains quiet” based upon “evaluations of the situation” toward “the preservation of stable security.”

In tandem, the Jerusalem Cabinet also approved an increase of 3,500 additional permits for Palestinian workers to a total of 12,000 for employment in Israel’s manufacturing and services sectors. The influx will help relieve a current shortage of 14,000 vacancies for skilled staff, said the Ministry of the Economy in a statement released yesterday.

The unemployment rate in Israel hovers around 3%.  If the annual average unemployment rate in Israel rises above 7.5%, the government said the quota for Palestinian workers in manufacturing will automatically be reduced accordingly.

Hailing the decision to boost the number of Palestinian entry permits as a “lifeline” for the industrial sector, Head of Israel’s Manufacturers’ Association Ron Tomer said, “There are currently thousands of open jobs that manufacturers find difficult to fill, and we believe that increasing the quota will help reduce the severe shortage at least in the short and medium term and help the industry continue to operate and grow in Israel.”

Overall, Population and Immigration Authority data shows that Israel employs nearly 100,000 West Bank and Gaza Palestinian workers predominantly in construction or agriculture jobs.

All workers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, are required to present valid permits to pass through military checkpoints to enter the Jewish State, where wages are substantially higher.

In addition to the extra work permits for Palestinians, the government is hoping to bolster Israeli manufacturing productivity through automation and digitalization, said Economy Minister Orna Barbivai.